FutureGen passes over Ohio sites

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SALEM, Ohio – Two Ohio sites have been passed over as home for the world’s first zero-emissions coal power plant.
The FutureGen Industrial Alliance and U.S. Department of Energy revealed July 25 their top four picks for the plant are in Texas and Illinois.
Ohio sites in Tuscarawas and Meigs counties were rejected in the search for the perfect plant site.
“We are disappointed and, frankly, somewhat surprised that neither of our sites made the short list,” said Mark Shanahan, executive director for the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority and member of the Ohio FutureGen Task Force.
About the plant. The FutureGen initiative is a response to President Bush’s order to address global climate change and move to a hydrogen-based economy, according to the Department of Energy.
The power plant will be fueled by American coal and will utilize new technology to produce hydrogen. In turn, the hydrogen will produce electricity for about 150,000 American homes.
Planners claim the plant will be the cleanest fossil fuel-powered energy plant in the world and will serve as a research site and prototype for other power plants to come.
The project costs $1 billion and will take 10 years to build.
Carbon sequestration. The plant also includes processes to trap atmosphere-polluting carbon dioxide during production and store it underground in unmineable coal seams and emptied oil and gas formations.
The Department of Energy estimates current technology will allow operators to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide produced.
In time, with more research and development, the plant should reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero.
Evaluations. Each of the 12 sites in seven states – Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, North Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming – faced rigorous site evaluations.
The FutureGen evaluations are much more stringent than what’s expected from any other power generation plant, according to Jo Ann Davidson, Ohio task force facilitator.
Sites had to include an acceptable location for the plant greater than 200 acres and the required underground carbon dioxide storage site, in addition to 100 other criteria.
Shanahan said the Meigs County site was disqualified for not meeting two criteria, and the Tuscarawas County location received low scores in several categories.
Meigs County’s site lacked sufficient underground storage wells and could have adverse effects on the nearby Racine Locks and Dam and Ohio River Islands national wildlife refuge.
Tuscarawas. The Tuscarawas County site received poor scores because of its proximity to ‘sensitive areas’ and power transmission lines.
In an e-mail sent to Shanahan, FutureGen’s CEO Mike Mudd said the Tuscarawas County site had a very large number of residences above the underground storage location, and planners had doubts as to whether the storage site even existed.
And, if the underground site was available, storage there could have detrimental effects on the Gnadenhutten Historic Park.
In addition, the site’s topography would make construction there difficult, Mudd wrote.
“We remain confident that Ohio submitted two very strong proposals in an intense competition that Ohio could not afford to ignore,” Shanahan said.
The state task force has asked for more details on the evaluations from FutureGen, Shanahan said, and will review those evaluations to learn more about the state’s weaknesses.
Not all lost. Ohio’s elimination from the running isn’t entirely bad news.
Research and reports prepared by the Ohio FutureGen Task Force during the site application process won’t go to waste.
The task force’s teamwork showed the deep-seated interests that will help Ohio compete for other scientific and economic development opportunities.
“We now know our state offers numerous sites that are ripe for future development for clean coal power plants and other major energy or industrial facilities,” said Jo Ann Davidson, task force facilitator and former Ohio House Speaker.
“That development doesn’t go away just because we weren’t chosen,” she said.
Davidson also said the Ohio River Valley Coal Research Consortium, made up of scientists from seven universities, will aggressively pursue research funds and projects that will benefit the FutureGen project.
“Ohio is a leader in coal research and development technologies, and no matter what, that stands.
“This will be a prototype and will be replicated across the country. We’re confident Ohio has a role to play in this in the future.”
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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